Ballinger Memorial Hospital District (BMHD) installed their $300,000 mammography machine in October, which was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Instead of just putting the mammography machine in a room and running patients in and out, BMHD was no-holds-barred when it comes to comfort and privacy, as BMHD’s Director of Radiology, Sommer McCullough, points out, “This is the only mammography machine in this area. Moreover, this is the only mammography machine of its kind in west Texas. With this machine, we give patients the remote control and they actually control the compression. We’ve found that a patient will actually use more compression than the tech will in most cases.”

The mammography room is just one of 3 rooms in the Sensory Suite. One room has a bone density machine and then there is also a spacious dressing room. McCullough says that bone density scans and mammograms go hand-in-hand, “Many times a doctor will order a bone density scan at the same time he or she orders a mammogram. That meant that many patients were driving to other cities so that they could get both done at once. Now we can do both of those tests here.” Radiology technician Tamara Aguilera says that it saves patients hours, “If you needed a mammography, you’d have to go to San Angelo or Abilene. It’s 45 minutes to San Angelo and longer to Abilene. You drive for 45 minutes, sit in a waiting room for 30-45 minutes, get the mammogram done in about 30 minutes, then drive back to Ballinger. Now patients can save 3 or 4 hours by coming here. They come, check in and get their mammogram done, all in about 30 minutes.”

The patient-controlled compression device isn’t the only part of this that makes the experience unique.

When you first walk into the suite, you are welcomed by warm hues of grays and blues. Once the door is closed it can be locked for added privacy. There are 2 comfortable chairs in the suite. Off to the right is the bone density room and to the left is the mammography room. The mammography room has video screens on 2 walls so patients can select calming scenes to watch while they undergo testing. These scenes can be flowers, waterfalls, butterflies, birds, etc. The scene changes so that you aren’t staring at the same image for the entire 30 minutes or so of the testing. In addition, there is a Scentys fragrance machine that fills the air with the delicate fragrance of flowers. If it weren’t for the mammography machine standing against the wall, you’d think that you just walked into someone’s home. The Sensory Suite also has it’s own independent air conditioning and heater so that the patients can enjoy a temperature that is comfortable to each individual.

BMHD’s motto for defeating breast cancer is, “The key to the cure is close to home.” McCullough reiterates that sentiment, “Breast cancer is curable. The key is early detection.”

When you consider the prevalence of breast cancer, the screening becomes that much more important. The national average says that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. Men are not immune to it and on average 1,000 men every year will be diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the 2018 County Health Rankings, only 30% of women in Runnels County, aged 65 or older, will receive their annual screenings. The screening rate for women aged 40-74 in Runnels County is 53%, “Everyone knows someone who has had breast cancer,” Aguilera adds.

Since the machine wasn’t up and running until mid-October, the hospital worked out an agreement with a radiologist who will screen private patients’ mammograms for $130 through the end of December. The screenings usually cost $230 or more. Once a mammogram is performed, the hospital endeavors to get the results back to the patient in 5 days. The standard is 30 days but the hospital, just as with the Sensory Suite itself, always attempts to exceed expectations.

McCullough says that so far they’ve done approximately 50 screenings, with more coming every day. She says that patients share a common sentiment, “That they’re, happy to have a mammogram machine close to home.” McCullough adds, “We knew this area needed a mammogram machine and now we have one, and it’s a great one.”

BMHD advertises their mammogram machine as a, “Pristina Mammography System that features a Sensory Suite designed to soothe a woman’s senses, creating a new mammogram experience Close to Home. Monitors play a tranquil video & calming fragrances lightly infuse the air. The Pristina Mammography System at Ballinger Memorial Hospital also features the Dueta, a patient-assisted compression device that allows the patient to control the compression during the mammogram.” It goes on to say, “The system is only 1 of 3 Mammography Systems providing the region 3D and 2D imaging for breast cancer detection and diagnosis. Our 3D Mammography System delivers the lowest patient dose of all FDA approved 3D Mammography Systems.”

You can contact Ballinger Memorial Hospital at 325-365-2531 if you’d like to learn to about their services.